Standing Shoulder to Shoulder in the Fight for Justice
By Chinh H. Pham
The Boston Bar Association is doing vital work within the Greater Boston community to ensure a more just application of the law for all. However, that work cannot be done without support—support both from the BBA to outside groups, and support of the BBA and its mission by decision makers, including elected officials.
Attending January’s Beacon Awards, I was impressed with—but not surprised by—the incredible turnout, even despite inclement weather. It proved what I had already felt; the time has come for an event like that to receive the recognition it deserves. The BBA is focusing on DEI initiatives—not just this month as we celebrate Black History Month, but year-round—and recognizing those who are difference-makers in the community and who align with our organization as well as the values we seek to uphold every day. That focus is being noticed, both by our own membership and by those outside the BBA, and it brings me great pride that people are seeing the actions backing up our words and mission.
I think back to the words delivered by Boston Mayor Michelle Wu that night, even as she could not attend in-person.
“Our democracy and our legal structures and foundation have never been more important because rebuilding our systems to uplift everyone with compassion and care, and what you model through the Boston Bar Association, is making a difference every day,” she said that night via pre-recorded remarks. “Together, we are seeing that in Boston, we’re working on the promise of justice for all our residents across every neighborhood. It’s an urgent fight in which I know we all stand shoulder to shoulder.”
And she’s correct—we must stand shoulder to shoulder with the city’s leadership to enact lasting change. As a former lawyer, Mayor Wu recognizes the many resources at the BBA’s disposal and the impact we as an organization can make. And we recognize the importance of fostering and cultivating a positive relationship with her office and those who ultimately decide what the city’s values are and how they are upheld.
I also think of Empowerment Award honoree Citizens for Juvenile Justice (CfJJ), and the work they do to ensure equity within the system between treatment of adults and children, not only in the city of Boston but across the Commonwealth. Treating juveniles with respect and in manner which reflects the BBA’s values—that’s important, as evidenced by our recent amicus filing calling for the end of life-without-parole sentences for young adults. We at the BBA will continue to uplift and amplify those who strive for real change. Whether it’s CfJJ, fellow honoree Fidelity Investments and their focus on improving outcomes for clients and employees alike—including a $250 million investment in the educations of underserved kids—or any other organizations, we need to continue to identify groups within the community that are doing good on behalf of any overlooked populations and support them however we can.
The recent Talk to the Hill event took that idea of standing shoulder to shoulder with our elected officials a step further. As I said that day, we show up for Talk to the Hill each year because we know that funding for civil legal aid addresses critical issues in our community and makes a significant difference in many people’s lives, including some of our most vulnerable neighbors. By strengthening our relationships with Beacon Hill—which, of course, is just steps from the BBA office—we can extend our reach beyond city limits throughout the entire Commonwealth. It is my sincere hope that, with a former BBA member serving as chief executive of the Commonwealth and a former legal services worker heading City Hall, we can continue to re-engage and re-establish those relationships to the benefit of the profession and community—in Greater Boston and beyond.
Finally, I recognize the importance, as President of the BBA, of leading these efforts. I am truly passionate about the work that the BBA is doing, and think it’s important to show up, be involved, and participate as much as I can. It’s important for both our membership and the community to see me in my role at these events—a responsibility that, especially as the first Asian person to take on this role, I do not take lightly. I need to be present to provide visibility on behalf of the BBA within the community, and it’s my honor to continue doing so.
The Boston Bar Association has a mission to advance the highest standards of excellence for the legal profession, facilitate access to justice, foster a diverse and inclusive professional community, and serve the community at large. We will continue to make progress toward that goal by uplifting those who help others and fortifying our relationships with those who have the power to change the law and its administration from the top down.
As Mayor Wu said at the Beacon Awards, “We all know that the work of building and rebuilding our systems to be rooted in justice and to center our communities is never work that can be completed. It’s never done.” The BBA will continue to play a leading role in that fight, and, as President, I will continue to be on the front lines as we do so.
Chinh H. Pham
Boston Bar Association